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  • Christine Chumbler
    Sixty-five Percent Of Malawians Are Poor, Report Says Panafrican News Agency December 1, 2000 Raphael Tenthani Lilongwe An official report released Friday said
    Message 1 of 1046 , Dec 4, 2000
      Sixty-five Percent Of Malawians Are Poor,
      Report Says

      Panafrican News Agency
      December 1, 2000

      Raphael Tenthani

      An official report released Friday said at least 65.3 percent of
      Malawians still live below the poverty line.

      The report by the National Statistics Office (NSO) and the National
      Economic Council (NEC), said poverty is more acute among
      women than men.

      Some 65 percent of female-headed households are poor, while in
      men, the rate poverty is 56 percent, it said, noting that the majority
      of the poor people live in rural areas, harbouring about 90 percent
      of the population.

      Charles Machinjiri of the National Statistics Office said of the 65.3
      percent poor Malawians, 29 percent are desperately poor that
      they are barely surviving.

      "These live in very deplorable conditions," he said, adding that
      government would have to spend at least 325 million US dollars, or
      about 19 percent of Malawi's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), to
      improve the lives of the poor people.

      Machinjiri said the report would help policy makers to design ways
      of mitigating the effects of poverty in Malawi.

      Launching the report at a ceremony in Lilongwe Friday, vice
      President Justin Malewezi said there was need for political will to
      end poverty in Malawi.

      "We must facilitate opportunities for poor people to reduce their
      poverty," he said.

      Malewezi said poor people are subjected to various forms of
      societal abuse because their status deprives them of basic rights
      to resist injustice.

      Wycliff Chilowa of the Centre for Social Studies said it was high
      time government scrutinised why past intervention strategies have

      He said despite several previous studies and interventions, the
      poverty picture is unchanged.

      "What is missing is lack of implementation strategies," he said.

      Among others, the poverty analysis report says many poor
      households in Malawi are deprived of land or have negligible


      AIDS Killing Over 80,000 Malawians Every Year

      Panafrican News Agency
      December 1, 2000

      Lilongwe, Malawi

      At least 80,000 Malawians are dying every year from AIDS-related
      diseases, causing great strain to the country's socio-economic life.

      Secretary for health Richard Pendame said the figure is bound to
      rise sharply should Malawians not change their sexual behaviour.

      "In other words, this means one million Malawians are living with
      the deadly virus that causes AIDS," he told journalists in Lilongwe.

      Pendame said most of the victims are young, aged between 15
      and 49, who are very important to Malawi's economy.

      The national prevalence rate for HIV is estimated at 8.8 percent of
      Malawi's 10 million people. But Pendame said HIV prevalence
      rates for the 15 to 49 age group stands at a stunning 16.4

      Deputy head of the National AIDS Control Programme, Dr. Andrew
      Agabu, said some 265,000 people have since died from
      AIDS-related causes since the virus was first discovered in Malawi
      in 1985.

      "But I must add this is a conservative estimate and the figure could
      be much more since other deaths go unrecorded," he told PANA.

      Agabu said there are at least 390,000 orphans due to AIDS and
      this figure is expected to be increasing by 70,000 every year.

      He added that despite the increase in AIDS cases, awareness
      rates of the dangers of the disease stands at an impressive 90
      percent of the population. Malawians should expect to see
      changes in the magnitude of AIDS figures after those infected die

      The toll of AIDS on Malawi's socio-economic front has been
      astronomical. According to latest figures from the UN Development
      Programme, the country's per capita income has dwindled down
      from 220 US dollars to 187 dollars, while life expectancy has gone
      down from a hopeful average age of 47 to a pessimistic 37.

      In the wake of these grim statistics, the Malawi government has
      devised several strategies to slow down the HIV/AIDS prevalence

      For instance, President Bakili Muluzi July decreed the arrest of
      anybody aiding and abating prostitution.


      Row Erupts Between Malawi, Mozambique Over
      Fishing Rights

      Panafrican News Agency
      December 3, 2000

      Raphael Tenthani
      Lilongwe, Malawi

      A row is brewing between Malawian and Mozambican small-scale
      fishermen over fishing rights on lake of Chiuta in the southern
      district Machinga.

      Lake Chiuta, which is small but endowed with significant fish and
      bird resources, lies on the Malawi/Mozambique boarder.

      An environmentalist in the area, Hastings Maloya, told PANA
      Saturday trouble begun when Malawian traditional leaders
      confiscated fishing nets owned by three Mozambican fishermen for
      allegedly violating Malawi's fishing laws.

      Malawian authorities, in a bid to allow for the reproduction [of] fish,
      impose a four-month ban on large-scale fishing in all its lakes
      between 1 December and 1 April. Maloya said village committees
      called Beach Village Committees enforce these laws.

      "Our friends from Mozambique largely ignore the ban, arguing that
      they cannot be restricted by Malawian laws since they are not
      Malawian citizens anyway," he said.

      Maloya said that a BVC vigilante group arrested and confiscated
      the nets of three Mozambican fishermen who breached this ban.

      He said that the Mozambicans vehemently protested and tempers
      flared at a meeting called to judge their case. The Mozambicans
      said that they would not accept being charged under Malawian

      Senior Malawi government officials travelled to the area Saturday
      to try to impress upon the Mozambicans on the importance of
      observing the ban.

      But, according to Maloya, the Mozambicans remained adamant
      forcing the Malawi government to call for a high-level meeting with
      their Mozambican counterparts.

      At joint meeting of border traditional rulers, a Mozambican
      traditional leader, Group Village Headman M'mwepa, warned of
      unspecified consequences should his subjects continue being
      harassed by Malawian officials.

      This is not the first time that Malawi and her neighbour have
      quarrelled over Lake Rights. Late Mozambican leader Samora
      Machel took issue with his Malawian counterpart, the late Hastings
      Kamuzu Banda, over a portion of Lake Malawi.

      Marshall Machel wanted a larger control over the lake, Africa's
      third largest.

      That row was settled amicably with the two governments allowing
      unrestricted fishing for their citizens.


      Low-key Memorial Ceremony for Banda

      Panafrican News Agency
      December 3, 2000

      By Raphael Tenthani,
      Lilongwe, Malawi

      A low-key memorial church service was held Sunday morning in
      honour of the late former Malawian President Hastings Kamuzu
      Banda, who was buried three years ago.

      The memorial service took place at his home district of Kasungu at
      a mission where the hard-line leader had started his education in
      late 1800s.

      Members of his family and the now-main opposition Malawi
      Congress Party (MCP), with which he ruled Malawi with an iron-fist
      for 30 years, attended the mass.

      The anniversary of his burial comes amid controversy surrounding
      government plans to exhume his body and rebury it.

      Banda's relatives and MCP officials have frowned at government
      plans to exhume the late dictator's body and rebury it at a
      proposed hero's acre.

      Jane Dzanjalimodzi, Banda's niece and family spokesman, said
      government never consulted the family on the proposed plans to
      rebury the remains of Banda, which he described as against the
      family tradition.

      "The government never consulted us (about this) neither did they
      tell us the present (grave) site was temporary," she said.

      According to her, Banda's family would find it very strange to
      disturb the old man's grave and would rather let the old man rest
      in peace at his present resting place in Lilongwe, the capital.

      MCP President Gwanda Chakuamba told PANA Sunday that while
      there might be good intentions behind the move, government
      should have consulted Banda's family and the party before
      planning to exhume the old man's remains.

      "Before he was buried there were two committees on the funeral
      arrangements and where he was to be buried. The government
      should have consulted the same committees," he said.

      But secretary for lands Henry Juwa defended the government's
      position, saying the authorities thought it was proper to find a
      fitting place to re-bury Banda in designated heroes' acre.

      He said a committee would look into the issue and it may opt to
      turn where Banda's grave is now as the heroes' acre or find some
      other place where all important people, including the late Banda,
      would be buried.

      Hastings Kamuzu Banda died in a South African clinic at the grand
      age of 101 on 25 November 1997 from pneumonia complications.

      Banda had ruled Malawi since independence from Britain in 1964.
      His single party rule was characterised by gross human rights
      abuses with detention and summary liquidation of opponents.

      His rule started unravelling in 1992 when Malawi's eight Catholic
      bishops published the first open criticism of his rule. An attempt
      was made to silence the bishops but it was too late.

      Exiled opposition pressure groups caught the wind of change and
      started openly agitating for change.

      Banda accepted to hold a referendum in 1993 asking Malawians
      whether they were ready for multiparty politics. A resounding 'yes'
      vote opened a flurry of political changes leading to the first
      multiparty general elections in 1994, in which Banda lost power to
      his one time protege, Bakili Muluzi.

      Despite his chequered history, Banda won praises for conceding
      defeat without a fight.


      Muluzi Calls for Cheap AIDS Drugs

      Panafrican News Agency
      December 3, 2000

      Blantyre, Malawi

      Malawi president Bakili Muluzi has asked donor countries,
      agencies and drug manufacturers to consider lowering the price of
      anti-retroviral drugs to mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS in his

      Muluzi, speaking Saturday at events marking the World AIDS Day,
      which is observed on 1 December, said that most Malawians were
      too poor to pay thousands of dollars for these drugs.

      "I hear AIDS drug manufacturers have special arrangements with
      some countries where they offer the drugs at subsidised prices.
      We would like that facility to be extended to Malawi as well," he

      According to latest figures from the National AIDS Control
      Programme, AIDS prevalence in Malawi stands at around 16
      percent among people in the 15 to 49 age bracket.

      NACP estimates that at least 265, 000 people have already died
      from AIDS-related causes since the virus was first discovered in
      Malawi in 1985 leaving behind an estimated 390,000 orphans. The
      population of orphans is said to be growing by over 70,000 every

      Muluzi described these figures as tragic and called on Malawians
      to change high-risk behaviour to slowdown new infections. Turning
      to the 2000 World AIDS Campaign Theme - Men and AIDS: an
      Engendered Approach, Muluzi cautioned men who spend time
      outside homes on duty.

      "I call on men on the move; bus and truck drivers and other
      professionals to control their urge to misbehave when out on duty.
      Simply zip up and abstain," he said.

      Meanwhile, the minister of health, Aleke Banda, said that more
      than 70 percent of hospital beds in Malawi were occupied by
      people living with HIV or AIDS.

      He said one in every six young people aged between 15 and 49
      carry the virus that can lead to AIDS, adding that the situation was
      worse among young women aged between 15 and 21 whose
      infection rates were between four and six times higher than in
      males in the same age group.

      The minister said that government was enhancing efforts to break
      the jinx on AIDS by encouraging openness when discussing sex
      between parents and their children.

      He appealed on donors, who have promised to give 110 million US
      dollars to combat AIDS, to live up to their pledges.


      Zimbabwe President Warns Farmers

      By Michael Hartnack
      Associated Press Writer
      Sunday, Dec. 3, 2000; 9:28 a.m. EST

      HARARE, Zimbabwe ** President Robert Mugabe has warned white
      commercial farmers of expulsion if they continue their court battle against
      his plan to seize 3,000 white-owned farms and redistribute the land to blacks
      without land, Zimbabwe's state media reported Sunday.

      "I urge farmers to drop the nonsense of fighting the land issue in the courts,
      as that will make us even more angry," Mugabe said Saturday at a
      tree-planting ceremony in an eroded tribal area near the capital, Harare,
      according to the state-controlled Sunday Mail newspaper.

      "If the farmers cannot be harmonious, ... then we will ask them to leave our
      country harmoniously," he said. State radio also reported the comments.

      Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and South African President Thabo
      Mbeki met with Mugabe on Thursday, and urged Zimbabwe to follow its
      own laws when seizing land for redistribution.

      Zimbabwe's highest court, the Supreme Court, has declared the government
      land resettlement program illegal because the seizures are not performed in
      accordance with legislation passed by Mugabe's ruling party in April.

      That legislation requires the government to evaluate the value of and pay for
      improvements, such as roads and irrigation, made to land it seizes. Owners
      must also receive a three-months notice of the seizure.

      The government has also ignored two High Court orders to end ruling party
      militants' illegal and often violent occupations of about 1,700 white-owned
      farms. The occupations, described by Mugabe as a justified protest against
      unfair ownership of land by whites, began in February.

      About 4,000 white farmers own a third of Zimbabwe's productive land,
      where about 2 million farm workers and their family members live. About
      7.5 million live on the other two-thirds.

      Obasanjo told reporters he warned Mugabe that imbalances in land
      ownership could only be resolved if legal processes were followed.

      "What Zimbabwe should do is strictly follow the law that is already in
      place," he said, adding that the unrest and economic problems caused by the
      land issue could spill across borders.

      He also said he had been asked mediate between Mugabe and Britain, the
      former colonial power, over compensation for white land owners *
      descendants of colonial era British settlers * whose farms were being

      The Sunday Mail reported that Mugabe said Britain had given up its efforts
      to obstruct Zimbabwe's land reform program.

      "(Zimbabwe's) government is now moving on an irreversible course of
      acquiring land and redistributing it to the people across all the rural
      provinces," the paper quoted Mugabe as saying.

      Mark Malloch Brown, administrator of the United Nations Development
      Program, warned Friday after talks with Mugabe that donors would not
      finance reforms until laws were obeyed and violence stopped.

      Zimbabwe is facing its worst economic crisis since independence in 1980.
      Farm occupations have cut production of tobacco and other export crops,
      and most foreign loans have been halted. Hard currency shortages have led
      to acute shortages of gasoline.
    • Christine Chumbler
      ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17 The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by
      Message 1046 of 1046 , May 22, 2006

        ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract

        by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17

        The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by government to look for another contractor instead of China Hunan Construction to construct of the long awaited Karonga/Chitipa road.

        China Hunan from Mainland China won the bid which was approved by the ADB but government later wanted to award the contract to a Portuguese firm, Mota Engil, the second lowest bidder, claiming China Hunan's bid was unrealistically low and that the company had very little experience in Africa.

        Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe confirmed on Sunday the ADB rejected the proposal at a meeting held between the bank and Malawi government in Tunisia last week.

        The Malawi government wanted the Tunisia meeting to authorise it to get another contractor for the road, said Gondwe.

        "They did not allow us to look for another contractor because of their regulations. But we are about to get another alternative for Karonga/Chitipa and I would be surprised if it does not start before end June," said Gondwe.

        The minister explained that the bank insisted that regardless of the unrealistic cost estimates, China Hunan should be allowed to go ahead with the construction.

        But Gondwe could not give further details about the alternatives, arguing there are still a few loose ends to tighten up before disclosing it.

        The problem with China Hunan, according to Gondwe, is that it would require more money to meet the total cost of the project.

        This paper reported last week that government met Taiwanese representatives where they offered to fund the road if the ADB continued to reject its favoured contractor, Mota Engil.

        Gondwe could neither confirm nor deny the reports on the Taiwanese offer, saying government was looking at a number of ways to handle the issue.

        According to Gondwe, the China Hunan's bid was 24 percent lower than the consulting engineers' estimates of K7.9 billion and 34 percent below the second lowest bidder.

        President Bingu wa Mutharika laid a foundation stone for the construction of the road this year ahead of a crucial byelection in Chitipa in December last year.

        The President's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the Chitipa Wenya constituency by-election that fell vacant following the collapse and subsequent death of Speaker of Parliament Rodwell Munyenyembe who belonged to the UDF.

        Last week, police and the District Commissioner (DC) for Chitipa stopped a rally that was aimed at soliciting people's views about development projects in the district.

        The meeting, which was reportedly organised by Concerned Citizens of Chitipa, was among other things also supposed to tackle the controversial Karonga/Chitipa road.

        The project failed to start off in 2000 when a contract for an initial loan of US$17 million and US$15 million from the Taiwanese government was signed, with some quarters claiming the Bakili Muluzi administration diverted the money to another road.


        Chihana operated on

        by Edwin Nyirongo, 22 May 2006 - 06:32:31

        Alliance for Democracy (Aford) president Chakufwa Chihana, who is in South Africa receiving treatment, had a brain operation on Friday at Garden City Clinic, family and party officials confirmed on Sunday.

        Aford national chairman Chipimpha Mughogho said he was told by the family members that Chihana had a successful operation on Friday and was put in an intensive care unit.

        Mughogho said Chihana, who initially complained of headache, was found with a brain tumour which South African doctors removed.

        Mzimba West MP Loveness Gondwe said Aford boss condition was stable.

        "Hon. Chihana had a major operation and after that he was put in the intensive care unit but his condition is stable. I do not know where he was operated on but it had something to do with the skull," she said.

        Deputy Information Minister John Bande referred the matter to the Health Minister Hetherwick Ntaba who was reported to be in Geneva, Switzerland.

        Aford publicity secretary Norman Nyirenda said when Chihana's situation got worse, the family alerted the Office of the President and Cabinet who took him to Mwaiwathu Private Hospital.

        "The doctors at Mwaiwathu advised that he should be sent to South Africa and they even identified the doctor for him," he said.

        He said the costs are being met by the Malawi government, contradicting his earlier statement that his boss covered the cost.

        Mughogho is now in charge of the party.

        Gondwe will be a busy person when Parliament starts meeting on June 6 as she is the only Aford MP remaining.


        Pillane proposes presidential age limit

        by Emmanuel Muwamba , 22 May 2006 - 06:34:13

        A member of the DPP National Governing Council Abdul Pillane on Saturday urged members of political parties and the civil society to put an upper age limit in the Constitution for presidential candidates.

        Pillane was addressing members of political parties and civil society in Liwonde during a two-day follow up workshop to the National Conference on the Review of Constitution held in March in Lilongwe.

        "My view is that (an upper) age limit should be at 75. We have to give a chance to younger people to lead because in circumstance, when you age you become forgetful especially when sickly," said Pillane. "Overall, chances should be given to young people."

        But UDF secretary general Kennedy Makwangwala, whose party members agitated for the age limit during presentations, played the issue down.

        "I feel there is no logic to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates. If someone is 90 or 80 I don't know how that can influence the electorate not to vote for someone who is younger, I don't see any logic behind that," said Makwangwala.

        MCP participants at the workshop also vehemently objected to the proposal.

        MCP vice president Nicholas Dausi in an interview said: "There is no constitution in Africa which stipulates an upper age limit. So it would be strange in Malawi to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates."

        MDP President Kamlepo Kalua also opposed the need to have an upper age limit.

        "If we have personalities in mind that we want to discriminate against then it is unfortunate. The constitution we want to build is a guiding document for future generations and it should not bar certain individuals on the basis of grudges," he said.

        The Malawi Law Constitution Issues Paper of March 2006 says several submissions that were received put an upper presidential age limit in the Constitution.

        "It is argued that it is common sense that mental knowledge faculties tend to fail with age. As regards what the actual age limit should be the submissions are far from being agreed. The range is from 60 years to 80 years," read submissions in the Issues Paper.

        On whether MPs should double as ministers, Kalua said this should be the case.

        Makwangwala also said it is not right for MPs to serve as ministers because the Legislature, another arm of government, is reduced while the Executive branch is beefed up from another arm of government.

        "There is no separation of powers when MPs double as ministers," said Makwangwala.

        But Pillane said there is no problem for MPs to work as ministers as well, saying MPs are elected by the President.

        "One can serve both posts. There have been no problems before for people to double," said Pillane.

        The Centre for Multiparty Democracy funded the workshop through the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy.

        The objective was to come up with a collective position on the Issues Paper which will be presented to the Special Law Commission that will be constituted soon.


        Mussa hails new driving licence

        by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:58:52

        Transport and Public Works Minister Henry Mussa last week said the design of the Malawi-Sadc driving licence would guard against forgery and ensure that only skilled and legitimate drivers of particular vehicles are licensed.

        Mussa was speaking at the official launch of the licences in Lilongwe where he announced that traffic police would from July enforce speed limits and sober driving using Breathalysers which his ministry is in the process of procuring.

        The minister said financial constraints are the reason for the delay in procuring the equipment but assured that by July they would be available.

        "With the new equipment, the days of those who believe in the thrill of drink and driving are numbered," warned Mussa.

        Mussa added that with the new licence, government is optimistic that the country's roads would be safe.

        Acting Director of Road Traffic James Chirwa said the features that distinguish the new from the old licences are the Malawi national flag and a ghost image of the driver's photograph, among others.

        Those with old licences, according to Chirwa, are expected to get the new ones after the expiry of the former.


        UDF demands investigation on Kasambara

        by Rabecca Theu, 22 May 2006 - 06:30:46

        The United Democratic Front (UDF) has asked government to investigate Ralph Kasambara on allegations of abuse of office while he was attorney general.

        UDF publicity secretary Sam Mpasu told the press Sunday that the party is neither amused or saddened by the removal of the former AG but asked government to institute investigations on Kasambara.

        "Beyond the removal of the Attorney General, we now urge President Mutharika to institute investigation against Mr Kasambara into allegations that have made rounds in the public domain during the recent past. These include: Mrs Helen Singh and SS Rent-a-Car; SGS and ITS saga; ...........the use of Malawi Police Service in the arrest of three Chronicle journalists and the handling of Mrs Rubina Kawonga," said Mpasu.

        Mpasu also accused Kasambara of awarding government contracts to Lawson and Company where he was a senior partner.

        "We urge government to thoroughly investigate the former AG. We also ask government to cautiously select the new AG ," said Mpasu, who was accompanied by the party's Secretary General Kennedy Makwangwala, leader of the party in Parliament George Mtafu, chief whip Leonard Mangulama and a member of the executive Hophmally Makande.

        But Minister of Information Patricia Kaliati said UDF should give offer its advice to the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB).

        "They should advise bodies like the Anti-Corruption Bureau to conduct the investigations and why are they saying this now? Is it because Kasambara has been fired? This is not a personal issue. If they have other pressing issues they should just say so. These arguments should have come up earlier on when the said cases were happening," she said.

        Kasambara asked UDF to proceed with the mission of urging government to investigate him.

        "They can do their job. Everyone has a right to lobby for anything they want in the country. UDF has a right to do that, let them go ahead," he said.

        Kasambara was relieved of his duties as AG by the President last week. Government has not given reasons behind the removal.


        Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land

        The Times of Zambia (Ndola)

        May 18, 2006

        Posted to the web May 19, 2006

        Andrew Lungu


        MALAWIANS who have encroached on both the 'no-man's' and part of the Zambian land at the Mwami border in Eastern Province have plucked out some beacons that were used in the demarcation of the border.

        The Malawians are now using the beacons as stools in their newly-established villages on Zambian land.

        Eastern Province Minister, Boniface Nkhata, said in Chipata yesterday that if the situation was not controlled urgently, Zambia would lose huge tracts of land to Malawians migrating into Zambian in large numbers.

        A check at the Zambia-Malawi border showed a number of beacons had been vandalised and new structures constructed on the 'no man's' land and a large portion of Zambian land.

        Mr Nkhata said the trend extended to many parts of the province bordering the two countries.

        "A large portion of Zambian land has been taken up by the Malawians starting from the Chama boundary up to the Mwami border.

        "The weighbridge at the Mwami border was initially in Zambia from the time both countries gained independence from Britain, but now the bridge is on Malawian soil," Mr Nkhata said.

        The minister, who is former Chama District Commissioner, said there was similar encroachment in Lundazi and Chama districts where Zambia shares a boundary with Malawi.

        He said a Malawian farmer identified as Mr Mfune had cultivated 71.5 hectares on Zambian land and employed about 265 Malawian workers.

        "Khombe Farm in Chama district in Kanyerere's area, along the Muyombe road which leads to Northern Province where this Malawian farmer has cultivated a vast land is on the Zambian territory," he said.

        Workers on the farm admitted that they were farming on Zambian soil but could not go back to Malawi because the land in that country was inadequate for cultivation.

        Mr Nkhata appealed to the ministry of Lands to urgently release money for the demarcation of the Zambia-Malawi border to avoid further land disputes between the two countries.

        Meanwhile, the Immigration Department in Livingstone has arrested a couple and another man, all Zimbabweans, for working in Zambia without permits.

        They were arrested at Gwembe village yesterday where they worked for Into Africa, a tour operating company that provides bush dinners and breakfast.

        According to the Immigration Department in Livingstone, the trio entered Zambia through the Victoria Falls border as visitors but decided to work for the company illegally.

        Last week, immigration officers arrested 10 Zimbabwean traders and six Ethiopians for entering and staying in Zambia illegally.

        The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.

        The Ethiopians were arrested at Konje Guest House when they ran out of money to proceed to Botswana.



        Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests

        Harare, Zimbabwe

        22 May 2006 11:51

        Zimbabwe's biggest labour federation on Saturday threatened to call massive demonstrations against the government over poor salaries and worsening living conditions for workers in the country.

        The threats are ratcheting up pressure against President Robert Mugabe's government after similar threats by the biggest opposition party in the country, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), about two months ago.

        Speaking at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) conference on Saturday, the labour body's president, Lovemore Matombo, said the powerful union wants the government to award workers salaries that match the country's ever-rising inflation.

        "I can assure you we will stage massive demonstrations to force them [employers] to award workers minimum salaries that tally with the poverty datum line," said Matombo.

        Matombo did not say when exactly the ZCTU would order workers to strike.

        Opposition protests

        Meanwhile, the MDC on Sunday said it will push ahead with plans for anti-government protests, saying victory in a key by-election at the weekend was a "sign the electorate supported its policies", including democratic mass resistance.

        A spokesperson of the main faction of the splintered MDC, Nelson Chamisa, said victory over Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF and a rival MDC faction in a Saturday by-election in Harare's Budiriro constituency is a sign Zimbabweans still have confidence in party leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his policies.

        Tsvangirai, the founding leader of the MDC, heads the main rump of the opposition party whose candidate, Emmanuel Chisvuure, polled 7 949 votes to win the Budiriro House of Assembly seat.

        Gabriel Chaibva of the other faction of the MDC, led by prominent academic Arthur Mutambara, garnered 504 votes while Zanu-PF's Jeremiah Bvirindi polled 3 961 votes.

        "This election showed that the electorate still has confidence in the MDC [Tsvangirai-led] leadership and its policies," Chamisa told independent news service ZimOnline.

        He added: "We will now move to consolidate our position * we still believe in mass protests. Until we have attained our goals we see no reason why we should abandon [plans for protests]."

        Tsvangirai has threatened to call mass protests this winter against Mugabe and his government. He says the mass protests, whose date he is still to name, are meant to force Mugabe to relinquish power to a government of national unity to be tasked to write a new and democratic Constitution that would ensure free and fair elections held under international supervision.

        Mugabe and his government, who had hoped for victory in Budiriro to show they were recapturing urban support from a splintered MDC, have not taken idly the opposition's threats to call mass protests, with the veteran president warning Tsvangirai he would be "dicing with death" if he ever attempted to instigate a Ukraine-style popular revolt in Zimbabwe.


        In a fresh crackdown against dissension, the police last week arrested several church and civic leaders for organising public prayers and marches to mark last year's controversial home-demolition exercise by the government.

        The police also banned the marches and prayers, fearing they could easily turn into mass protests against Mugabe and his government.

        However, the marches went ahead in the second-largest city of Bulawayo after organisers had obtained a court order barring the police from stopping the march.

        Political analysts say although Zimbabweans have largely been cowed by Mugabe's tactics of routinely deploying riot police and the military to crush street protests, worsening hunger and poverty are fanning public anger that Tsvangirai -- with proper planning and organisation -- could easily manipulate.

        Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe six-year old economic crisis that has seen inflation breaching the 1 000% barrier. Last year, the World Bank said Zimbabwe's economic crisis was unprecedented for a country not at war.

        The MDC and major Western governments blame Mugabe for wrecking the country's economy, which was one of the strongest in Africa at independence from Britain 26 years ago.

        Mugabe denies the charge blaming the crisis on sabotage by Britain and her allies after he seized white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks six years ago.

        The Harare authorities recently hiked salaries for civil servants, with the lowest-paid soldier now earning about Z$27-million while the lowest-paid school teacher now takes home about Z$33-million.

        But the salaries are still way below the poverty datum line, which the government's Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says now stands at a staggering Z$42-million a month for an average family of six.

        The Zimbabwe government often accuses the ZCTU, a strong ally of the MDC, of pushing a political agenda to remove Mugabe from power.

        Meanwhile, Matombo and Lucia Matibenga retained their posts as president and first vice-president respectively during the ZCTU congress that ended on Saturday. -- ZimOnline

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